China’s New Vassal
How the War in Ukraine Turned Moscow Into Beijing’s Junior Partner
MR. JINNAH, the President of the Moslem League, claims that the Moslems in India are not just another kind of Indian, are not merely a minority, but are a nation. On this claim rests the demand for Pakistan, a separate Moslem state, independent in the world and in particular independent of Hindustan, the India of the Hindus. Hindus find difficulty in accepting this claim and its implication that there can be no union of India. The dispute is not just a petty squabble among politicians, of no particular importance to the rest of the world. The outcome of it will be the creation either of a Union of India -- the most populous state in the world, with the possible exception of China -- or of Pakistan, the largest of all the Moslem states and the last of a belt of independent Moslem countries stretching from Constantinople to Delhi, from the Hindu Kush to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb.
The political and religious eruption of Islam out of Arabia in the seventh century soon spilt over into India; and Sind and parts of the Punjab were included, by about 700, in the domain of the Caliph of Baghdad. But not for another three hundred years was the influence of Islam to penetrate further into India, and then it did so under the banner of the Turks, not of the Arabs. About the year 1000, Mahmud, the ruler of a state based on Ghazni in southern Afghanistan, began a series of raids deep into India and added most of the modern Punjab and Sind to his possessions. From then onward for 500 years the story is a confused and rather grim one of conquest and rebellion and intervals of settled government. The Turkish invaders found themselves surrounded by a society and a civilization with which they had very little in common. In other parts of the world Moslem expansion was at the expense of Christians, who as "people of the Book," acknowledging, that is to say, the authority of the Old Testament, were exempt from the rule of "Islam or death" and could be allowed to live in peace, if they accepted their subordinate position and paid the special tax, the jizya, levied on unbelievers. But the Hindus were not only unbelievers, they were idolators as well, and though a more tolerant attitude was very soon adopted by the conquerors, death or Islam was the choice which many a Hindu had to make in the early incursions. No doubt the invaders were realists. There were not many of them (it is a mistake to think of mass irruptions); they came to conquer and rule and enjoy the fruits of conquest, not to trade or plough; to kill off peasants and traders was false economy. So the Hindus were left very much to themselves and encouraged to produce the country's wealth. From what they produced, the Turks as the ruling class skimmed the cream.
The conquerors and the conquered seem to have kept to themselves. Life in India in the Middle Ages "must be thought of as two distinct currents flowing side by side, mingling to a varying extent along the line of contact, but not uniting to form a single stream." There were reasons for this apart from the harsh reality of conquest. There was the Turkish practice of secluding women. Turks, it is true, married with the women of the country, as conquerors will, but there is little evidence that they gave their women in marriage to Hindus. There was caste. The Turk was a convivial fellow and also a beefeater, and Hindu caste rules fostered a very different kind of social life. Moreover, in the eyes of the orthodox Hindu, the conquering Turk was an outcast, an untouchable, and the very idea of "caste" was opposed to that equality of man before God which is one of the fundamentals of Islam. There can have been very little social intercourse. There was the difference of language, of script, of literary traditions, though the lingua franca, now known as Hindustani, began to develop in this period. It seems, in fact, that it was only in Bengal where some progress was made toward an effective synthesis of conflicting cultures. The Turks must have occupied in an exaggerated degree the position that, for two centuries after the Conquest, the Normans occupied in Anglo-Saxon England.
There was of course considerable conversion of Hindus to Islam. Mr. Jinnah is right in not trying to support his "two nation" thesis with the claim that modern Indian Moslems are racially different from their fellow Indians. The invaders did not arrive in hordes, though it is important to remember that for centuries there was constant coming and going between India and the Moslem lands to the west, a traffic which certainly provided steady reinforcements of new blood for the Moslem invaders. Probably as many as 90 percent of India's 90,000,000 Moslems are descended from Hindu converts to Islam. The curious traveller in the central Punjab will often find Moslems and Sikhs living in the same village. His inquiries will show that both claim descent from the original founder of the village, who will have a Hindu name. At different periods long ago the descendants of Lal, the Hindu, accepted Islam or Sikhism, and Lal Mahomed and Lal Singh live side by side in the village still. Some conversions were certainly forced -- there are records of persecutions -- and some were doubtless sincere. But probably the great majority was due to social or economic causes, the material advantage of adopting the creed of the ruling class. But when there was no conversion -- and there was probably very little among the higher castes of Hinduism and the educated -- the difference in religion was a tremendous barrier. Nor was this all: Hinduism and Islam are both more than religions; each is a way of life, a civilization, as well. Whether as civilizations or religions, they are as unlike as they can be.
By the end of the fifteenth century the picture of India is something like this: Several centuries of Turkish rule have produced a pattern of which the details shift but the general shape remains. Turkish authority based in Delhi is accepted over northern India from Peshawar to Bengal. It extends southward into the Peninsula, but southern India is still Hindu and unconquered. In the Moslem sphere Hindu princes and chiefs still often remain at the head of their people, but as vassals or clients of Delhi. The Moslems are the ruling race and generally a class apart. They officer the armies and staff such civil administration as there is; they have acquired estates which they hold as fiefs from the king. Their numbers have grown by conversion and many of the peasantry, especially in the north, are Moslems. Below the ruling class the immemorial life of Hindu India goes on unchanged. The Hindus are not usually oppressed, but they are kept in their place and may have to pay jizya. But most of the commerce, industry and agriculture of the country is in their hands. Rebellions against the authority of Delhi are common, both by Hindu vassal princes and by ambitious Turkish or Afghan nobles, and the death of a king is often the signal for a ruthless little war of succession. The country is ruled but not governed; there is little administration and much lawlessness.
Upon this scene, about 1500, came the Mogul Conquest. Babur, the conqueror, ruler of Kabul, was of mixed Turkish and Mongol blood. His descent was distinguished, from Tamerlane on his father's side and from Jenghiz Khan on his mother's. The Mogul dynasty which he founded produced a succession of able rulers, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb, and though the subjugation of the extreme south was never more than temporary, the Mogul Empire during the seventeenth century did impose upon India a degree of unity which it had never known before and was not to know again for nearly two hundred years. Not that there was complete and easy submission; the Rajput princes and the Hindu kingdoms of the south fought hard to keep their independence and were ever alert to try to regain it. There was no lack of dynastic warfare or of rebellion by Moslem adventurers. But in general for much of the country the period was one of unprecedented internal peace. Trade flourished, agriculture expanded, roads were made and fine buildings appeared. The Courts of Akbar and his two successors were centers of culture. Even more important to the ordinary man, the Moguls governed as well as ruled; administration was strengthened and extended. The famous inscription in the Red Palace at Delhi, "If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here," certainly did not apply to the country as a whole, but it does seem that in the great middle period of the Mogul Empire, round about 1650, the ordinary man, peasant or trader, could go about his business with a new freedom and safety.
The Moslems were still the ruling class, more so than ever perhaps, for they now wore the imperial purple. But Hindus were winning their way into important offices of state and, as the principal commercial and mercantile class, must have benefited much from the more settled conditions. Akbar at any rate made conscious attempts to encourage a synthesis of both religion and culture between Hinduism and Islam. Jizya was no longer imposed; the cow was protected; the tax on Hindu pilgrimages was abolished. One gets the impression of a short period of halcyon weather in the relations between Hindus and Moslems. The political power of the ruling class up above was too strong to make revolt worth thinking about. Down below, prosperity, comparatively efficient government and the increasing number of Moslems among the ordinary folk were making for contentment and tolerance and a blurring of the lines of religious difference. The tradition of a golden age of Akbar still lingers faintly in the villages of India.
If this somewhat rosy vision of mid-seventeenth century India is true to life, it was soon to fade away. Akbar's position had rested on two foundations: a clear realization of what was practicable in the way of control of outlying parts of the empire and a deliberate policy of tolerance toward his Hindu subjects. His two successors deviated little from this policy, but Aurangzeb, the last of the great emperors, lacked statesmanship and was a bigot into the bargain. He dissipated the strength of the empire in attempting to bring the south into complete as well as nominal submission and, worse still, he antagonized his Hindu subjects. The customs taxes were differentiated in favor of Moslems, the jizya was reimposed, temples were destroyed deliberately, suttee was forbidden, official protection was withdrawn from the cow. In every way Hindus were made to feel that they were a subject people and infidels as well. For the first time in the long history of Moslem rule, there was aroused what we should call today a Hindu "Resistance." Before Aurangzeb died the whole fabric of the empire was threatened. A capable successor might have restored the position in the north. But there was no capable successor, and in the 50 years between Aurangzeb's death and the British victory at Plassey in 1757, the Mogul Empire crumbled away in a twilight of bigotry, internal rebellion and external invasion. The eighteenth century was grim for India and the story is one of internecine wars between the succession states of the empire and the struggle of the survivors of these wars with the growing British power.
When the dust of conflict finally cleared away after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, and India settled down to nearly a century of internal peace, the picture that appeared was a new one. Much of India had known foreign rule for 800 years, but now for the first time the foreign rulers exercised effective sovereignty, directly or indirectly, over the whole of the country. It is interesting to speculate on what the picture would have been had the British taken no hand in the game. Perhaps we may get a glimpse of this from looking at what remained in 1860 of the old structure -- the Indian states which were not under direct British rule. These were, and still are, 90 percent Hindu. In Hyderabad a Moslem aristocracy ruled a Hindu population; in Kashmir the position was reversed, but the general pattern was that of a Hindu prince ruling Hindu subjects. There was no state of importance in which a Moslem ruled over Moslems. It seems possible at any rate that without British intervention India might have resumed the shape of pre-Moslem days, a collection of Hindu kingdoms and principalities (with perhaps Moslem states in Bengal, Sind and the Northwest and a Sikh kingdom in the Punjab) cohering or falling apart with the rise and fall of rulers of unusual ability or ambition. One thing seems certain -- though Moslems are apt to forget it -- Moslem imperial pretensions had ceased to be valid before the British appeared. The Mogul Empire fell not by foreign invasion but by internal disintegration, helped on by Hindu rebellion and made irretrievable by the degeneration of its rulers.
The Hindus lost their chance of throwing off foreign masters, it is true, but otherwise they gained rather than lost by the change. Under the Moguls they had been the bankers, merchants and traders of the country. They must have suffered more than any other class from the anarchy of the eighteenth century, and they gained correspondingly from the enforcement of order, the rule of law, the improvement in communications and the stability in public finance which the British brought in. Trade and commerce, both external and internal, were expanding rapidly and there was plenty for Hindu businessmen after the British merchants had taken their share. The education, science and industrial methods of the west were spreading rapidly and the Hindus were wise enough to take every advantage of them. In Moslem times Hindus had been used freely in posts in the civil administration, even sometimes the highest. If they now lost some opportunities of high employment, their British rulers were only too thankful to make use of Hindu experience and literacy in all administrative posts which they did not think necessary to reserve for themselves. The new courts called for lawyers, the new schools and colleges for professors; western medicine and western journalism were becoming popular. Presently Hindus had almost a monopoly of the liberal professions. Modern India is predominantly the expression of a new Hindu urban civilization and the foundations of this were laid in the security and improved conditions of the nineteenth century. Outside the towns the peasants lived as they had always lived, but in a security which was new to them and with the confidence that their taxes would be neither arbitrarily imposed nor capriciously collected. The result was an extension of agriculture and a slow rise in the standards of rural life.
Moslem peasants of course shared in the general improvement in conditions. But the Moslem upper and middle classes, in town or country, were in very different circumstances. For centuries they had been a ruling class -- courtiers, soldiers, judges, administrators. The fortunate ones had commanded armies and ruled provinces and stood at the right hand of kings and emperors. All had enjoyed in some measure the prerogatives and perquisites of rulers. All these material advantages of political ascendancy were now enjoyed by the British, and if there were Moslems who had the inclination to turn to other fields of activity and the qualifications required to make good in them, they found, as we have noted, Hindus already in full possession of trade, commerce and the professions. In addition to the decline in their material fortunes, Moslems had the mortification of playing second fiddle to the despised Hindus in political importance and in influence with the British rulers of India. This rankled perhaps more than anything else. The reversal of fortune was so crushing that the members of the Moslem community seemed stunned by it. Wrapping themselves in the fatalism of their creed, they sulked in the corner, watching apathetically and with impartial distaste their new rulers and their former subjects, infidels both and supplanters as well.
This apathy in a quarter of the inhabitants of the country could not last forever. But it was not until almost the last quarter of the nineteenth century that there were signs of a Moslem renaissance. For this revival the chief credit must go to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a man of vision and a leader who, in spite of the opposition of the old school of conservatives, captured the imagination of the rising generation of Moslems. He had a threefold program: social reform within the framework of Islam, acceptance of western education, and friendship with the British. The second item of the program was urgent. Moslems had turned their backs on the new learning which the west was offering to India. They had clung to their old ways; small boys went on attending the school attached to the mosque where they learned the Koran by rote and little else, and their elders sat at the feet of Moslem divines hearing much talk "about it and about" and generally coming out at the same door as in they went. But the connection between education and power was becoming too obvious to be ignored. "When Hindu clerks were being promoted to posts in which they could give orders, when even policemen were chosen because they were good at their books, it was clearly wise for Moslems to reconsider their attitude to the new education." The foundation of the Moslem university at Aligarh in 1877 served notice to both British and Hindus that Moslems had done with sulking in their tents and were in the field again.
The moment for a friendly approach to the British was opportune. In Europe England was playing the rôle of friend to the Sick Man in Constantinople, and the Sultan of Turkey was, in the eyes of Indian Moslems at any rate, the Caliph of Islam. In Asia the policy of meddling in Afghanistan had been dropped and common apprehension of the intentions of Russia was improving relations between British India and her nearest Moslem neighbor. Nearer home Indian nationalism was being born, with the British Raj as a complaisant midwife. The Indian National Congress held its first session in 1885. The stirrings of political consciousness were watched with doubtful eyes by Moslems who saw in the proclaimed goal -- the establishment of representative institutions -- not so much a promise of self-government for India as a threat of the perpetual rule of a Hindu majority. Moslems seemed in need of safeguards. These must be sought from the British Government and it was only common sense therefore to make friends with the mammon of unright-eousness. The new policy justified itself from the Moslem point of view in 1909, when Indian legislatures became representative bodies and Moslems obtained the safeguards they sought -- separate electorates and "weightage," that is to say, a measure of representation commensurate not merely with their numbers but with their political importance and the value of their contribution to the defense of the country. The Moslem League had already been founded in 1906.
To sum up, we can trace three phases in the history of the Moslems in India from 1500 to the First World War. First came the period of dominance, which ended with the crumbling of the Mogul Empire about 1700. This was followed by a century of conflict, during which the question whether Hindu or Moslem was to rule India was reopened. The issue was never decided owing to the intervention of the British, who were stronger than either contestant for power. The third phase might be described as an armistice, and covers roughly the nineteenth century. There was nothing for the rivals to fight for. Political power was out of the reach of either, securely held in the British grasp.
We may put the beginning of a fourth phase in the year 1917, when the British Government announced that its policy was "the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." The importance of this announcement for Hindu-Moslem relations has been too little understood outside India. It said clearly that the destiny of Indians was to govern themselves by democratic process. It gave notice that presently -- perhaps in as little as a generation -- political power would pass from British to Indian hands. To which Indian hands? Moslem or Hindu? The armistice was over. The interrupted conflict of the eighteenth century was on again.
The present phase is still working itself out. The complexity of the political history of India over the last 25 years defies compression; the events are recent and heavily charged with emotion. The curious may be referred to Professor Coupland's report to Nuffield College, Oxford,[i] for something as near to a dispassionate survey as is possible for a contemporary Englishman. From among the many landmarks of the period we may pick out three as of peculiar relevance to the history of the Moslems in India. We may note two frustrated attempts by Britain to devise a constitution under which India might progress in unity to full self-government and the final decision to leave it to Indians themselves to decide the sort of government under which they wish to live. We may single out next the fact that Moslems, in a large part of India, for the first time had a short experience of living under Hindu government. Lastly, there is the emergence of the doctrine of Pakistan. The connection between these three facts of history cannot be missed. Mr. Mahomed Ali, no friend to British rule in India, once said, "Make no mistake about the quarrels between Hindu and Mussulman; they are founded only on the fear of domination."
Pakistan has, as one at any rate of its parents, Moslem fear of domination. It is the political reaction to Moslem apprehension that Union of India, equipped with democratic institutions, whether the government be unitary or federal, can mean nothing but perpetual Hindu domination and virtual Moslem economic serfdom. The basis of Pakistan is the "two-nation theory," expressed by Mr. Jinnah in these words: "Moslems and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a hundred million, and what is more we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions. In short we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life." If the Moslems are a separate nation, then they are entitled to self-determination in the parts of India where they are in the majority and which constitute their "homelands." These are Punjab, North West Frontier, Kashmir, Sind, Baluchistan, Bengal and Assam. In these homelands they propose to set up a sovereign Moslem state, independent internationally and specifically independent of the India of the Hindus, Hindustan.
This is the doctrine of Pakistan, as it is expounded by the Moslem League. One may call it a crime against India or the Moslem Magna Carta, a counsel of despair or the only logical solution; one may demand a cutting of the Gordian knot or a judgment of Solomon. But whatever one's views on Pakistan as a solution for India, it cannot be brushed aside, it has got to be taken into account. The fourth phase will not end until Moslems either get Pakistan or are satisfied that they can have security without it. The sooner public opinion, whether inside or outside India, recognizes this inescapable fact, the better.
The fifth phase, when it comes, will be the end of a long journey. Will the 90,000,000 successors of the little band of Moslem invaders at last settle down in India as Indians, and identify themselves with its future? Or will they turn their faces from India and reënter as a nation the political orbit of Islam, of which they have always remained a part in religion and culture? If Pakistan is to be the answer, the wheel will have turned full circle. The early Moslem invaders undoubtedly thought of themselves as a camp in a foreign land. The word Urdu means "the language of the camp." Their modern descendants, the adherents of Pakistan, take a similar view of themselves. Have the Moslems in truth been a people apart all through the varied course of their history in India, the years of slow conquest, the peak of empire, the almost Miltonic fall from glory, the long century of despondency, the gradual renaissance? It seems sometimes as if it must be so, as if the two streams are still, after 900 years, flowing side by side. Such a thing has happened elsewhere, notably in Canada. But if it is so, it means that Pakistan is not merely the child of fear of domination. That fear can be removed, as it has been removed for other minorities in other countries. But, immediately, these political and economic fears are important.
Moslems in India are, speaking broadly, the "have-nots," Hindus the "haves." As the traveller, riding through the fields of northern India, draws near to the village, he will see among the trees a low mass of mud-built dwellings. The skyline is apt to be broken by one more imposing erection, of red brick. It is obviously the house of the most prosperous man in the community. "Whose is that house?" he will ask. And nine times out of ten the answer will be "the bania's." The bania, the village moneylender and storekeeper, is even in a Moslem village a Hindu. There is the economic aspect of Hindu-Moslem relations in a nutshell. Moslems have been striving for two generations to improve their position. They fear that their progress will be halted, that the present position of inferiority will be frozen, if Hindus add political to economic power. It is not yet a conscious war between the Hindu masses and the Moslem masses; for them the struggle for better living is a common one. To exaggerate the importance of Hindu-Moslem riots is a great mistake. Such open clashes are more incidents of propinquity than symptoms of a condition of mind. But there is bitter and conscious competition for economic opportunity between the upper and middle classes of the two communities, between the professional and business men. The one side is determined to keep and improve upon its lead, the other equally determined to better, or at least to hold, its position. The key to economic security is seen to be the political power which Britain has promised to transfer to Indian hands. Hence the importance of the immediate questions: To which hands? In what shares?
But neither the search for political and economic security nor insistence on their separate nationality has always been enough, in other countries, to compel minorities to choose secession in preference to union or federation. There are two nations in a united Canada and in a united South Africa; there are three in Switzerland. Different nations do live together. For material fears there are proved material safeguards. Pakistan is not the only answer. So when we find Indian Moslems declaring that it is, we must look below the material surface of things for some deeper and more compelling cause. We shall not find it simply in religion. Neither Hindus nor Moslems want to convert each other. Hinduism has ever been a tolerant creed and the days of Moslem proselytizing are over. We shall not find it in a simple conflict of cultures, though we are getting nearer to the root of the matter here. It is true that Hinduism is absorbent, but Moslems, set in the midst of Hinduism, have been successful in preserving their own cultural traditions for 900 years. We shall find it in something in the Moslem communal consciousness or perhaps, more correctly, subconsciousness. Fear of political and economic dominance is indeed the formal casus belli. But underneath is their idea of themselves both as Moslems in India and also as Moslems in the wider community of Islam.
In India the Moslem tradition is one of rule, and particularly of rule over Hindus. The struggle for power in the eighteenth century was, as we have seen, left undecided. There are Moslems alive who were born when a successor of the Moguls still reigned in Delhi and a Moslem king held court in Lucknow. The tradition is unbroken except for the British incident, and it counts for much, even if only subconsciously, in forming the attitude of the Indian Moslem to the idea of a state in which he occupies only the second place, while the Hindu occupies the first. Historically Pakistan has a basis in the pattern which was emerging in India when British intervention checked natural developments; spiritually it satisfies something deep-rooted in Moslem minds. The Moslem may be a citizen of a particular country; he is also a citizen of the world of Islam. Mr. Mahomed Ali put it well, when, at the Round Table Conference in London, he said, "I belong to two circles of equal size, but which are not concentric. One is India and the other is the Moslem world. . . . We are not nationalists, but supernationalists."
Much derives from this attitude. Looking toward India, the Moslem has a sense of superiority toward the Hindu who belongs to a creed and civilization which are parochial compared with the world community of Islam; he is unwilling to merge himself with the Hindu in this smaller society. Looking outward, on the other hand, he feels himself somewhat inferior to his Moslem brother in a Moslem country and longs for the more assured and respected status which citizenship of a free Moslem state would give him. This vague feeling of inferiority shows itself in his quick interest in what is going on in Moslem countries outside India. When the rights of Moslems are threatened the Indian Moslem tends to be more royalist than the king. The delegates of the Turkish press, who visited India during the war, surprised and shocked Indian Moslems by announcing that they were Turks first and Moslems afterward. Pakistan therefore is a symbol of the return of Indian Moslems to full communion with the free Moslem world. They would return, too, as the largest single Moslem state and, though Pakistan would be weak compared with Hindustan or with a Union of India, that inferiority would be satisfyingly compensated by its status in the international society of Moslem states.
It is this complex of scarcely-realized emotions which is the psychological driving force behind Pakistan. It explains that stubborn refusal to compromise on what seem reasonable material terms, which surprises and sometimes antagonizes the foreign observer. No one can help sympathizing with the Hindu vision of a great, united India; most people will believe that such a union would be best both for Indians and for the world. But when we criticize Pakistan, we must concede that it is not only a matter of power and security, of loaves and fishes; there are things of the spirit involved as well. One cannot divorce what is going on in India today from what has happened before. A very old rivalry, which has its roots deep down in the history and traditions of the Moslems in India, finds expression today in Pakistan. It is not only a political platform but a symbol as well.
[i] Reginald Coupland, "The Indian Problem." London: Oxford University Press, 1944.